New City No1 David Marshall walked away with more than the sponsors' bubbly on Tuesday night – he walked away with a big, seal of approval from his international predecessor stood at the other end of the pitch.
“It looked like fantastic saves he pulled off,” said former Canary keeper Robert Green, as Marshall twice denied Bobby Zamora and once – brilliantly – Lee Bowyer in the midst of a fast and furious opening spell from the visiting Hammers.
Left a virtual spectator at the other end until City started to get their act together after the interval, Green was happy to stand back and admire the 22-year-old's work – his old job looking to be in a safe pair of hands.
“He looks as if he's got the potential to be here for a few years and do well. And I hope he gets given the chance. I'm sure he's happy here and I'm sure he'll play a big part in next season.”
Marshall certainly played a big part in making Tuesday night's friendly occasion rather more entertaining fare than usual – just as well, given the numbers that had packed in Carrow Road.
Whether it was to catch a glimpse of such returning City stars as Green, Dean Ashton or Craig Bellamy or whether it was in the hope of seeing just what a difference Peter Grant's eight new signings might make to Norwich's 2007-2008 prospects – or, indeed, a dash of both – there was an unusually good atmosphere about the place for a pre-season game as the better part of 23,000 fans filled the ground.
“”It was a good atmosphere – and played as if it were a cup game,” said Green, as Chris Brown's second-half header brought the night's entertainment nicely to the boil. Or rather, gentle bubble. It was still a pre-season game. Complete with all those 'Don't look now…' moments in a one-way opening spell.
“If we'd have scored all our chances in the first 15 minutes, I think we would have killed the game off and sort of ruined it as a spectacle for obviously a massive crowd.
“But through our lack of finishing – and David's great saves – it conspired to be a great game, really,” added Green.
It was, he admitted, a strange night. After ten years at the Norfolk club, he didn't know which way to turn come kick-off.
“It was slightly odd – the away dressing room. Warming up I nearly went to the wrong end and there was a couple of times in the game when I had a double-take as to who to pass it to and who not to.
“But apart from that, it was OK. It was a game just to get out of the way and one more towards the start of the season. And I think we played quite well.”
To add to Green's sense of confusion, there was Jamie Cureton back in a yellow Canary shirt; there was Darel Russell…
“It was strange. There's Norwich shirts going round and there's Darel in one of them. It's just a bizarre thing. I'd just about got used to him not wearing a Norwich shirt and now he's back wearing one. It was a strange one – but the whole evening was a bit surreal, really. As I said before, glad to get it out of the way really.”
In fairness, the 27-year-old's whole career has been rather strange of late – or, at least, rather more of a roller-coaster ride than for much of his time in Norwich.Ever since he tore his groin muscle away from the bone in that England World Cup warm-up game last summer, Green's life has been interesting.
There wasn't exactly too many dull moments in the East End of London last season. Nor, with the likes of Neill, Bellamy and Bowyer in the building, is this season likely to be short on fireworks. The whole Carlos Tevez saga is likely to have at least one more chapter in it, too.
“I feel fine; I feel good. It's just a case of getting a settled side now. I think we've played quite a few teams; different shapes with different players in. And with such a big squad – particularly in defence – it's difficult to get any continuity.
“But we've got one more game left (against Roma) and I'm sure that's the game that he'll be looking to put the team out that starts the season.”
At one stage in the evening, you could also hear: 'England's, England's No1, No1..!' coming from the claret and blue corner of the ground. Those ambitions are now on-going again – even if they come with the traditional Green sense of caution attached.
“Wait and see really,” said Green, with last season finding one or two new kids on the block – notably Ben Foster and Scott Carson.
“I was involved in the summer which was great and it'll be interesting to see how it transpires with the two boys at Liverpool and Manchester United. See what they do.
“But it's really out of my hands. I've said it before and I'll say it again: If I keep the No1 jersey at West Ham and I do well and the team does well, then it might be something that comes along. If it doesn't, then I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.”
Back in Norfolk and Marshall's efforts might ensure a few less sleepless nights on the goalkeeping front than the fun and games everyone endured last season.
“Obviously you don't want to be making saves like that every game,” Marshall told the club's official website, as he reflected on a memorable Carrow Road return following his full-time, summer switch from Celtic.
“You want to be sharpening up and that's what the pre-season games are for,” he added.
“I haven't had much to do this pre-season, so it was good to get some saves in. We've got another game Friday and, hopefully, I'll get another game then and I'll be ready and 100 per cent for Preston.”
He did have a word of praise for the supporters who rose to greet a new hero in the midst of his first-half heroics.
“The fans were great,” said City's new No1, on his second and more permanent tour of duty south of the border. “They turned out in good numbers again and they got going when we got the goal in the second-half and West Ham were a bit shaky then.
“So it's good to get back here and I'm looking forward to the season starting.”
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